I've started making regular trips to Manchester, so that means experiencing public transport. Nothing takes me out of Preston much, I'm used to transporting myself via my feet or my little car (a silver saxo with pink flowers on the bonnet, you might have seen it). Public places are great for people watching (or people judging, someone once said to me). So I always make sure I've got my notebook with me. It looks a bit dodgey I know. I could be mistaken for a trainspotter but I'm hoping my irish smile, fabulous taste in trainers and handbags deter people from making that assumption.
On Wednesday I made one of my trips to Manchester. I sat down on the platform, opened up my novel and began to read. While reading a particularly sad part of the story, my attention was taken away when a nasty stench of cigars, BO and mustyness found its way into my nostrils. An old man in a grubby rain coat sat down next to me. I didn't want to be too obvious but I wanted to check he wasn't one of the drunk tramps that have increased in numbers since the weather turned dry (some of them can be quite aggressive). So I peered over the top of my paperback and looked at his feet. His shoes looked decent enough and his trousers were clean. So I ruled out the idea that he was a tramp. I didn't feel like I could get up and move because it would be rude. He would know that I wanted to get away from him because he smelt so bad, so I breathed through my mouth when necessary.
3 minutes passed by and my face was turning blue. I couldn't make out the words in my book, I was going to suffocate if he didn't move! Then a long Virgin train headed to London Euston pulled up on the tracks opposite and the old man started to fidget. He pulled out a tatty notebook from his pocket. I couldn't help myself, I'm a nosey person. I had to see what he was writing. Down one side was a list of numbers and next to some of these numbers were town names. He looked up at the train opposite and then scribbled Preston next to one of these random numbers. I forgot about his nasty odour as I became fascinated in what he was doing.
The train began its journey to London and he got up and walked forwards a few steps and then stopped. Coughed and then with his left hand reached under his rain coat that was covered in stains, put his hand near his buttock and tugged at his trousers. He clearly had a 'wedgey'. He coughed again and staggered off. I was left on the bench feeling amused but I stopped myself. He was just a sweet, lonely old man with a quiet hobby doing no one any harm. As I watched him walk away I wondered if he had anyone to look after him. His clothes under his coat were clean enough. I tried to think of reasons why his coat was so filthy but my train came and disturbed my thoughts. I hope he's okay. If I come across him again I'll smile and say hello.